Emilia Terzon, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, June 12, 2018
A tourism marketing video posted on social media has been deleted just hours after a central Queensland council launched it, amid complaints the video was a “whitewash” with no recognition of local Indigenous culture.
The Rockhampton Regional Council’s bureau, Advance Rockhampton, officially launched the $6,000 video at a media event on Monday.
Rockhampton Mayor Margaret Strelow said it was part of a wider national campaign to take “Rockhampton to the rest of the country and indeed the world”.
“The first video we’ve produced is all about the lifestyle our region has to offer and the Fitzroy River features heavily with the fishing, the rowing sports and the spectacular views,” she said in a press release.
“Our Riverside precinct also stars along with the stunning Mount Archer as well as local restaurants and attractions.”
‘Overpowering whiteness of everything’
But within hours of being uploaded to social media, several people complained, including local Darumbal and South Sea Islander woman Amy McQuire.
“The first reaction I had was just how it whitewashes the history of the Rockhampton region and not only our proud Darumbal history, but also the history of the South Sea Islander people,” Ms McQuire said.
“It was the overpowering whiteness of everything — they’re talking about [Rockhampton] being unique and being in the sunshine, and they’re showing coffee and the gym.”
Ms McQuire said to her, that was just not what made Rockhampton interesting and worth visiting.
“To me, it’s about the history of this country and the fact that we as Aboriginal people have survived,” she said.
“We do have a diversity in our community now — we have a lot of members of the Asian community, we have a large Muslim community, we have a large African community — to me, it didn’t represent the community I grew up in.”
More than 7 per cent of Rockhampton’s population is Indigenous and there is also a large Aboriginal Shire Council 170 kilometres out of town at Woorabinda.
After New Zealand and England, the most common birthplaces of local residents born overseas are the Philippines, India and Vietnam.
An hour after Ms McQuire complained, the council deleted the video from its Twitter account and downloaded links sent to the media of the video also stopped working.
In a tweet, the council’s account apologised and said it had taken the video down.
“You are right and we should not be promoting the Rockhampton region without celebrating the Darumbal people, the area’s long history, and our diverse community — we apologise and we will do better,” the council wrote.
‘Should never have happened’
Ms McQuire said it was good the council acted so quickly.
“But I always just wonder how they could not have seen that first?” she said.
“I wonder particularly about the diversity within Rockhampton Regional Council — why that wasn’t picked up before they actually promoted it? I think it was a good apology, but it should never have happened.”
Another Darumbal local, Trent White, said the video was an opportunity for the community to grow tourism by celebrating Indigenous culture.
“When people all around the world hear about the oldest living continual culture in the world, they want to come here. This brings tourists here as well,” he said.
“To be not using that can only hurt your community. By using it, it can benefit the community in more ways than one.”
Councillor Strelow said she made the call to take down the “Caucasian-centric” video.
“I’m here to say mea culpa,” she said.
“It’s obvious that there has been a real shortage or a dearth of inclusive material, anything that really represents what our community is really made of.
“[Since yesterday] I had an email from a very dear friend who is of Asian descent, and he said it had struck him before that our marketing material didn’t represent the diversity of this region.
“So it’s high time we got that right.”
Councillor Strelow would not say who produced the video.
“Look, I’ll take ultimate responsibility, I’m the Mayor. I saw the video. Hundreds of eyes saw the video.”
She said more material would be filmed and inserted into the video before it went live again.
The furore comes just a month after the same council admitted to covering up Taiwanese flags painted by school students onto a statue of a bull.
Advance Rockhampton — the same bureau responsible for the deleted video — admitted to covering up the flags on the bull because it adhered to the One-China policy.